Monthly Archives: June 2011

Quincunx: Tough Gig

This is today’s horrorscope. I can’t see the difficult aspect, but I can feel it alright.

Your two key planets are warrior Mars and ruthless Pluto. These tough planets are in a difficult quincunx aspect today, requiring you to tone down your message. Manage your overall energy carefully, for not everyone has the ability to match your intensity. Your passionate nature is a blessing, but sometimes it can feel like a curse. There’s no reason to be afraid of your own emotions; however, it’s a good idea to respect the boundaries of those who are.

‘Loving the rituals’


Time for some nonsense

The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits by Lewis Carroll

Fit the First: The Landing

“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.

“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.”

The crew was complete: it included a Boots–
A maker of Bonnets and Hoods–
A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes–
And a Broker, to value their goods.

A Billiard-maker, whose skill was immense,
Might perhaps have won more than his share–
But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
Had the whole of their cash in his care.

There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
Or would sit making lace in the bow:
And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
Though none of the sailors knew how.

There was one who was famed for the number of things
He forgot when he entered the ship:
His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,
And the clothes he had bought for the trip.

He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
They were all left behind on the beach.

The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
He had seven coats on when he came,
With three pairs of boots–but the worst of it was,
He had wholly forgotten his name.

He would answer to “Hi!” or to any loud cry,
Such as “Fry me!” or “Fritter my wig!”
To “What-you-may-call-um!” or “What-was-his-name!”
But especially “Thing-um-a-jig!”

While, for those who preferred a more forcible word,
He had different names from these:
His intimate friends called him “Candle-ends,”
And his enemies “Toasted-cheese.”

“His form is ungainly–his intellect small–”
(So the Bellman would often remark)
“But his courage is perfect! And that, after all,
Is the thing that one needs with a Snark.”

He would joke with hyenas, returning their stare
With an impudent wag of the head:
And he once went a walk, paw-in-paw, with a bear,
“Just to keep up its spirits,” he said.

He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late–
And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad–
He could only bake Bridecake–for which, I may state,
No materials were to be had.

The last of the crew needs especial remark,
Though he looked an incredible dunce:
He had just one idea–but, that one being “Snark,”
The good Bellman engaged him at once.

He came as a Butcher: but gravely declared,
When the ship had been sailing a week,
He could only kill Beavers. The Bellman looked scared,
And was almost too frightened to speak:

But at length he explained, in a tremulous tone,
There was only one Beaver on board;
And that was a tame one he had of his own,
Whose death would be deeply deplored.

The Beaver, who happened to hear the remark,
Protested, with tears in its eyes,
That not even the rapture of hunting the Snark
Could atone for that dismal surprise!

It strongly advised that the Butcher should be
Conveyed in a separate ship:
But the Bellman declared that would never agree
With the plans he had made for the trip:

Navigation was always a difficult art,
Though with only one ship and one bell:
And he feared he must really decline, for his part,
Undertaking another as well.

The Beaver’s best course was, no doubt, to procure
A second-hand dagger-proof coat–
So the Baker advised it– and next, to insure
Its life in some Office of note:

This the Banker suggested, and offered for hire
(On moderate terms), or for sale,
Two excellent Policies, one Against Fire,
And one Against Damage From Hail.

Yet still, ever after that sorrowful day,
Whenever the Butcher was by,
The Beaver kept looking the opposite way,
And appeared unaccountably shy.

The Waste

Yesterday I tried to write something about Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, and his statement that he would ‘not tolerate’ primary school children going on to secondary education without the basic skills in literacy and numeracy.

I said something like: that’s all very well but how are you going to achieve that? An authoritarian stance and set of words is not quite enough. And then I noted that he was going to turn some of the primary schools into academies to presumably address this. By the end of the day, I had about 800 words but not much cohesion and quite a lot of crossness. Today I’ve got a little less crossness and fewer words (my mother will love that sentence!).

I started off down the road of the language of education. How I wince when I hear people (professionals and learners themselves) refer to people or groups as bright. What, I think, is the inference for those people without the label. Do you think they don’t pick this up? What is the effect of this?

And then today I got a helping hand to hang my thoughts on. This report from the OECD shows how bad the UK is at developing the self-confidence and resilience in our children that enables those from tough backgrounds to achieve and progress.

Our views and language of people is part of this picture. So much of how I work is not about people’s skills and abilities, but their deep-seated beliefs about their skills and abilities. What they think they can and can’t do is a powerful motivation or barrier to any kind of achievement.

Getting to the bottom of this cannot be forced in an adult. It can take nearly a year before a learner gains an insight into where some of their ideas about their abilities may have come from. Sadly, I have to report it comes usually from indifferent teaching and the language of labels. Support from parents also plays a role, but most parents have been through the same system and been inculcated in the same way. As we believe what we were told (or inferred) about ourselves, so we believe the views that are held about our children. And how many parents have the confidence to challenge the teaching and learning?

Here is my own story. It has become evident my own 9 year old is not progressing in numeracy. She is becoming an avoider. She has worked out that she does not, at this point, have the same skills as many has her peers. She is, to be frank, developing classroom strategies to get by, whilst judging herself unable to ‘do maths’. The teacher must be aware of this, because I have sent in a note. Have I followed this up – no. Why? Because – she is the teacher. Instead I am looking for some extra help for my daughter. And the help is a very particular sort of help. It is the kind that believes that every child can succeed, providing the teacher is prepared to take the responsibility of building the child’s self-confidence by teaching as many different ways as are needed to build those skills.

A curriculum is all very well, but to build the resilience and self-confidence the OECD report talks about, we need a wider discourse and curriculum. One which is not just intent on delivering the same curriculum to all children at the same time and tough if they don’t get it, but one that is founded on the belief that every child deserves a more than equal chance to develop a strong sense of their intrinsic value and worth.

Red Moon Tonight

There’s a lunar eclipse tonight but we will miss some of it in the UK because it begins whilst we are still in daylight hours. Nonetheless, if you pop out at sunset, 21:19 BST, you might be in luck.

I wonder what it all means.


‘Cast some light and you’ll be alright…for now’

More Louise Little – Less Malcolm X

It’s been annoying me that Louise Little’s (Malcolm X’s mother) life is so sparsely documented.

But what can I expect, she was a woman, a black woman, and a woman locked away for insanity for over twenty years, when the limited evidence would point to some kind of post-natal psychosis that these days may have been treated and resolved far, far more quickly.

Her political activism is recorded as a supplement to that of her husband’s – Earl Little. Her resistance to the Klu Klux Klan a matter of a few words only. Earl was killed in 1931 and Louise brought up her children for nearly eight years until in 1938 she gave birth to an eighth child and was subsequently committed to a mental institution. She was about my age: 41. It is noted in some places that, before she was committed, Malcolm had already been removed from her care by the authorities, aged 13, on account of his stealing. He was placed with a white couple known to his mother who fostered him.

So Louise Little, born in Grenada to a black mother and a white father (the result of a possibly consensual relationship, but very possibly not), the second wife of Earl Little, mother to eight children the fourth being Malcolm X is reduced to a sentence or two in the Kingdom of Google.

This is how she was summarised after her husband’s death in one online document:

“Unable to cope with the financial and emotional demands of single parenthood, she was placed in a mental institution, and the children were sent to separate foster homes.”

Seven children, for seven years, plus an eighth child and no damn money and she was ‘unable to cope’? How diminished do you want her footnote in history to be?

To be continued… Any flesh on the bones welcomed. So far, these are the discrepancies I can find. Her father was Scottish, or English. She was committed for 24 years or for 26. Her husband was murdered or not. Her will was broken by the State, or she just plain lost the plot.

This is the record of her life:-
Louise Helen Norton, b. La Digue, St. Andrew, Grenada 1897, d. 1991.

What Louise might have said or thought, when her son Malcom was shot dead in 1965, twenty-six years before her own death, does not seem to merit any mention.

‘We are Stardust’

That’s part of what Professor Brian Cox was on about on Sunday evenings a few months ago, on the BBC programme Wonders of the Universe, as he wafted about the world in a D:ream; in case you missed it.

It’s a minor miracle in itself that I ever watched the programme (but now I want the box set). Until quite recently I would have been vehement in my hatred of such scientific subject matter. In Physics at school I used to beg to be allowed to sit at the back and copy out of the text book, rather than participate in experiments. Well they called them experiments, but they weren’t really as everyone pretty much knew what was going to happen in any case.

My teenage self-study of the Sciences at school resulted in my achieving a Physics CSE at the giddy heights of a grade 2 – which far outstripped my performance in the other Sciences (Chemistry/Biology) where I scraped through with a pair of 3s.

Anyway, lately I have found the world of Physics fascinating. I don’t understand it much, I have to read the same page a few times when I tackle any book on the subject, but every little piece of information I do manage to glean is utterly mind-expanding and entirely absorbing.

The stardust in the blog title comes from this assertion: all atoms were created in the heart of a star. That’s all the atoms that make up us, the world, everything in it, our universe and all those beyond. We were born in the death of an exploding star and when we die our atoms will return to the universe. Now I have spent hours and hours in church and never once found a smattering of comfort in the religious narrative of creation. The Wonder of the Universe has far more resonance – what a pity we couldn’t have done that in CSE Physics Mr Butterworth.

The obvious song to put up would be the Joni Mitchell ‘Woodstock’ but I have to confess I am disappointed with the lyric spoiling hard science with religious references and, actually, I hate the tune. Let’s have Prof. Bri Cox (soon to gig at Glasto) instead.

Oh no let’s not. It’s an awful song.

A exploded star: Helix Nebula or the Eye of God

\o/ Arise Sir Henry \o/

Henry Cecil’s talent has straddled racing for decades, yet a more unassuming and diffident gentleman you could not hope to meet (although one would hope to meet him).

I have seen him, with his horses, up close a few times and I am always taken with how he looks at his horses. I have probably mentioned it before. His head is usually slightly to one side as if he is listening to what they cannot say, and his eyes literally drink them in. It is the look of love, but it is more than that. It is also the look that confirms the adage the eye of the Master maketh the horse.

Sir Henry’s eye has made many a horse, and we can look forward to seeing his latest, and perhaps eventually greatest, superstar Frankel on Tuesday in the St James’ Palace Stakes at Ascot.

After Frankel’s scintillating 2000 Guineas win he summarised it thus

It worked out exactly as I wanted it to work out and how I’d planned. I thought he could do it like that if he relaxed from the front. Having been in front so long, he was wondering where all the other horses were. He was going to sleep and waiting for them but that’s not a bad thing. He hasn’t taken too much out of himself. I thought if it was going to be a muddling pace, I didn’t want to put him out of his stride.

Slip Anchor did in the Derby but it’s not an easy thing to do. When I saw him him six lengths clear I thought we’d done the right thing. We will sit and think (about taking chance in Derby). I’ve ideas but we’ll think. Once I have talked to the Prince and worked it out together then we’ll let you know. He is in the Dante. We will see how he comes out of this and what we want to do. Whether he will get a mile and a half is another matter. If he was more of a miler then there is the St James’s Palace. We will leave all options open. If he is very well and he ran in the Dante we could easy bring him back a couple of furlongs at Ascot. We want to do the right thing and leave it completely open. Just go very carefully.

It’s very difficult to put years together, different generations. We’ve seen some fantastic horses in our time. He must come up into that category. He is a very, very good horse. Greatness is important for English racing too, for the public who love their racing to haveo a champion. We’ve had with Arkle, Mill Reef, Sea The Stars and other horses. It’s important to have something for everyone to look forward to.

Well said Sir.

The Master of Warren Place at work

God might not be reading this blog…

…(unless of course Mr Daftburger is hiding his divine light under a bushel) but the Archbishop of Canterbury might be.

Come on Rowan, you are so late.

On October the 7th last year I fulminated thus:

These new Tory values have hardly changed a jot from the Victorian times when “the poor” were divvied up into the “deserving” and the “undeserving”. And Nick Clegg

*head in hands*

Rowan-Come-Lately of Canterbury has only just got round mentioning it in the New Statesman this week. In his defence, I suppose he has had Christmas and Easter to deal with, plus that beard.